Artists of the Week: Shabazz Palaces
Shabazz Palaces are an American hip-hop collective, led by Ishmael Butler (ex-Digable Planets) and multi-instrumentalist Tendai ‘Baba’ Maraire that self-released anonymously two Eps in 2009 and pretty much went on incognito until they became favorites of the indie rock label Sub Pop, whose executives didn’t hesitate to sign them as their first hip-hop act.
They released their first full-length, Black Up, in 2011, which gathered accolades from both critics and urban music aficionados, reaching the top of the annual lists of several online music magazines. The acute combination of Butler’s swaggy political poetry with Baba’s fragmented beats, tribal drums and futuristic synths turned their debut into an eerie West Coast hip-hop classic that seems to gather more passionate listeners every year.
After a three-year hiatus, Shabazz Palaces are back with Lese Magesty, a long-awaited sophomore record that manages, in a brave vanguard effort, to summon a science fiction theme throughout eighteen track and seven suites that fuse their jazz rap roots with soul musings, prog tendencies and full-steamed intergalactic funk. It may not be an easy listening, but it’s a deeply rewarding one.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.